Design Your Life By Making Better Choices: Evangelist for Success - Blog Archives

Design Your Life

Posted on Tuesday, October 17, 2006 by Patrick YC Lim
There’s an old German saying that goes, “You have to take life as it happens, but you should try to make it happen the way you want to take it.” Are you planning to just let life “happen” to you or do you plan to play an active part in designing the life you want?

Some of you may say, yes, I would like to do that, but trouble is, I don’t know how to get started. So you just go with the crowd, or take the path that’s most hassle-free. Unfortunately, more often than not, the crowd may not know where it is going, and if so, then everyone ends up like everyone else, wondering what has happened to their life many years down the road!

A lot of people tend to take life for granted. They think that by the time they are in their 40s or 50s everything will fall into place by itself.

Are you willing to take that chance? Remember, you only have one life, and you can’t turn back the clock. Life is not a full dress rehearsal; it’s only going to happen once. You can’t say, “Cut, let’s start it all over again.”

The truth is, for most people, after 20 or 30 years of working, they only discover what they do not want, without a clue as to what they really want in life.

We all know we want something. Words like financial freedom, wealth, lifestyle, are catch words everyone is using. But do they know what it actually means? Do they know what it takes to achieve that? Do they know how or where to get it?

So my advice is: take the time right now to work out a design for your life. If life was a movie, and you are the producer and actor, what role would you want to play and how would the plot unfold? Designing your life is like making a movie. You have to be able to see the end at the beginning. It may start off a little hazy, but as you continue working on it, it would become clearer and clearer. You’ve got to write the script, put in the characters. Use your imagination, let your creative juices flow.

Does it mean that what you have designed is going to be set in concrete? Certainly not. You are the producer of your life. You can change, delete, or add in anything you want in your project. But at least by doing this exercise of designing your life, you are in control of your circumstances, rather than become a victim of them.

Here are some simple steps to help you get started:
  1. Find a nice quiet spot where you will be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Equip yourself with a pencil and a new note pad that will become your “Life Book”.
  3. Draw a time line across a page, from now to say five years on.
  4. At the left end of the time line, write “Present State”; at the right end, write “Desired State”.
  5. On the left end, describe as accurately as you can your Present State. Ask questions like:
    • What am I doing now?
    • What is my income, if any?
    • Do I like what I do?
  6. On the right side, under Desired State, describe as clearly as you can what you would like to see five years from now. Ask yourself, if I can’t fail…
    • What do I really want to be?
    • What do I want to have?
    • What will my life be like?
  7. Between the Present State and Desired State mark on the time line
    • What must I do to get what I want?
    • Who can help me?
    • What skills do I need?
    • What resources do I need?
The first time you may not get all the answers you want. If you do this exercise daily for some time, I can guarantee you that you will end up with a pretty good design for your life. You will know where to get what you want, what to do, who can help you and so on.

You don’t stop working on your project to design your life. I recommend you to keep going back to the “Life Book” you have created; it’s a “project in progress”.

Take charge of your life now. If not now, when?

Making Choices

Posted on Thursday, October 05, 2006 by Patrick YC Lim
Life is simply a sum total of the choices we have made. As Zig Ziglar said, “You are free to choose, but the choices you make today will determine what you will have, be and do in the tomorrow of your life.

That may seem a little daunting, when we do pause in our journey through life’s many twists and turns, to consider how we actually make choices. Choice of career, choice of spouse, choice of investment, the list goes on. Is it by instinct or “gut feeling” or do we actually analyse the important decisions we make in life? Or do we get so paralysed by fear of making the wrong decision, that we simply abdicate from any responsibility and just leave it to “fate”?

A case in point was a young man I was coaching recently. He has been working in a financial institution for several years now. Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree from NUS, he had several options when he first graduated. So how did he make his choice, I asked him. Was it what he really loved to do? I’m afraid not, as he did not have a clue what he would really like to do with the rest of his life! No, instead he looked at which job paid better, he also asked his parents and a few friends for their opinion, and of course, the answer came from their beliefs as to which job was more “stable”, has better prospect, and so on.

Certainly not a wise way to make decisions. Yet, who can take him to task for how he embarked on choosing what direction to take for his life then? Were any of us taught how to make choices in school?

Or are we taught to go the safe route, to live with compromise, as we would have plenty of that?

For those looking for a job, or perhaps are at a crossroad as to what direction to take for the rest of your life, here are some thoughts on what not to do when making choices:

Don’t attempt to weigh all options

This is what I used to do – make a “pro’s and con’s” list for each option and then set about analyzing what’s the best thing to do. All that happens at the end of the process is: we simply end up more confused that when we first started off!

Don’t think of all the things you don’t want

When thinking about what career to go into for example, don’t waste time thinking what you don’t want to be doing. Instead, focus on what you do want to do and what job is ideal for you. As the saying goes, what you focus on expands. Similarly, don’t focus on solving problems. If you keep focusing on your problems, and what you don’t want in life, that is exactly what would expand!

Instead use a creative approach – think about what you want in life and focus on how to create that for your self.

I remember an incident when I was still young and struggling with my business. One day I was sitting in my office, shuffling all the bills and cracking my head which one should I pay first with my limited resources. Then, a friend – much older and wiser than me came in, asked what I was doing, and when I shared my dilemma with him, he opened my desk drawer, pushed all the bills in and said to me, “Now go out and make the money you need!”

There are three types of choices that can help take you forward – primary, secondary and fundamental choices.

Primary choices are choices you make with regards to major results e.g. “I choose to be financially free in five years’ time.” Meanwhile, secondary choices that can help you take a step toward your primary results. In the above example, a secondary choice to support the choice to be financially free may be to build a second source of income, or perhaps to set aside money for investment.

What about fundamental choices? This is something not many people are aware of, but it is indeed crucial if you want to be really successful in life. Whereas a primary choice concerns itself with specific results and a secondary choice supports those results, a fundamental choice has to do with a state of being, or basic life orientation.

A fundamental choice is the foundation upon which primary and secondary choices rest. It is not subject to changes in internal or external circumstances. An example could be the choice to be true to oneself.

The schools do not teach us how to make choices in life, but it is a skill that can be learnt and once mastered, can help us live a life of our dreams.

A Perfect Storm: A Lesson to Learn

Posted on Wednesday, October 04, 2006 by Patrick YC Lim
Have you ever had that day when events came up not the way you’d expected? When things were not going the way you’ve wanted them to. When people whom you thought were on your side are now in an opposite camp. When everything seems to be going wrong. People whom you love and respect irritate the heck out of you! When everything that cannot go wrong, went wrong and everything else sucks. Whoa, I am in one right now.

I liken it to a perfect storm. It’s like a bright sunny calm day, when the ocean looks so inviting to take the boat out. After sailing for a while, black clouds suddenly appear from the horizon and are rushing fast towards you and your 100-footer boat. You have gone miles out in the ocean. The ocean turns choppy and starts to boil and waves are rising up from 10 to 50 meters high. You try to turn around to head back to land. The engine starts to splutter, choke and die. You jump to your radio to give the distress call to the coast guard. No response. Meanwhile you are tossing around in your boat with a dead silent engine. Imagine a matchbox being tossed around in water. You have run into a perfect storm. You wish it was a bad dream. But it is not.

At that point of time you are helpless. You can only wish that all these are not happening, but they are. Now what would you do?

I am experiencing a ‘perfect storm’ situation today. Fortunately, it’s not at the ocean. But right now, everything is not going as expected. The natural tendency is to blame someone and look for causes that create this unpleasantness. I am disappointed. I feel disgusted at the attitude of some people and appalled by the way they are thinking. I feel I have done so much for them and are not the least appreciated. Anger, yes anger swells within me. I want to lash out back at them.... But no, I am better than this, to allow a ‘perfect storm’ situation to overcome me.

I sat and reflected for a while what I should do. Calm came. When calm is in control it does not matter if there is a storm outside. After a while I began to forgive them and to love them. They are what they are, perfectly normal and behaving just the way they are. I have to rise above the situation. I must not be sucked in. Just like the ocean, the water, the wind, the waves, the clouds, they are what they are. At normal times they are beautiful. But on a day like this, they can cause havoc and create perfect storm. If I allow it to suck me in, I’m a ‘goner’. It’s part of life experience. And as long as I am sailing in the ocean, this is what I have to expect. What matters is to survive when each storm jumps up on me. I’ll survive when I remain calm, take corrective actions, and respect the elements.

There is always a perfect storm. It’s not just up to the mercy of the elements - the ocean, the wind, the waves, rain, and the current but it has to be the captain of the boat, i.e. me who has to read the signs and steer the boat so as not to sail into a perfect storm. I am responsible. No other person can be blamed. It’s I who chose what I did. The others are just the elements, like the elements in the ocean that create a perfect day or a perfect storm.

That’s the lesson I learn.